Gibson Les Paul is one of the most iconic guitars ever designed. It’s hard to imagine a guitar player that hasn’t dreamed of owning one. Although Gibson has made a lot of different guitars over the course of its rich history, Les Paul has become synonymous with the company. It’s hard to count all of the influential players that have made the Les Paul their go-to instrument. There’s Jimmy Page, Slash, Paul Kossoff, Duane Allman, Zakk Wylde, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Green, as well as Les Paul himself, and many more.
Gibson Les Paul, apart from its striking looks, also boasts a warm, full sound that has tons of sustain, making it ideal for anything from jazz and blues to heavier music genres, such as hard rock and heavy metal. It’s also made exclusively in the USA, which ensured the use of premium materials and superior build quality. However, all of that comes at a price, which is why your average player can’t afford one. Fortunately, there are plenty of great Les Paul style guitars, as well as Les Paul copies, which are a lot more affordable, but offer much of that familiar Les Paul sound and feel.
If you are in love with a Les Paul but are looking for an alternative to the Gibson brand, we’ve put together a list of the best Les Paul style guitars at each price point, as well as a buying guide at the bottom of the article explaining the brands and manufacturers. If you’re looking for a Les Paul copy this list will definitely help you out.
|Name of Product||Image of Product||Description||Price Range||Full Review|
|1. ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar (Best Value)||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Carved Flamed Maple Top|
|$540||Read Full Review Below|
|2. PRS McCarty SingleCut 594 Electric Guitar (Best Overall)||Body: Single/Double Cutaway Mahogany Body with a Carved Figured Maple 10 Top|
|$4600||Read Full Review Below|
|3. D’Angelico Deluxe Atlantic Electric Guitar (Editor's Choice)||Body: Single Cutaway Bound Basswood Body|
|$1300||Read Full Review Below|
|4. PRS S2 McCarty 594 Singlecut Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Maple Top|
|$1700||Read Full Review Below|
|5. Epiphone Les Paul Special II Plus Limited-Edition Electric Guitar (Budget Pick)||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Flamed Maple Top|
|$230||Read Full Review Below|
|6. Schecter Guitar Research Solo-II Custom Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Maple top|
|$950||Read Full Review Below|
|7. Gretsch Guitars G5220 Electromatic Jet Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Chambered Mahogany Body with Maple Top|
|$500||Read Full Review Below|
|8. PRS SE Mark Tremonti Custom Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Beveled Maple Top|
|$780||Read Full Review Below|
|9. PRS SE 245 Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Maple Top|
|$740||Read Full Review Below|
|10. ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Solid Mahogany Body|
|$1000||Read Full Review Below|
|11. Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Solid Mahogany Body with Carved Mahogany Top|
|$250||Read Full Review Below|
|12. Epiphone Les Paul Standard ’60s Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with AA Flame Maple Top|
|$600||Read Full Review Below|
|13. Jackson PRO Monarkh SC Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Arched Maple Top|
|$770||Read Full Review Below|
|14. ESP LTD EC-10 Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Basswood Body|
|$180||Read Full Review Below|
|15. Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro Electric Guitar||Single Cutaway Mahogany body with Carved Maple Top|
|$600||Read Full Review Below|
|16. Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Poplar Body|
|$180||Read Full Review Below|
|17. Guild Bluesbird Newark St. Collection Series Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Chambered Mahogany Body with Carved Maple Top|
|$950||Read Full Review Below|
|18. Washburn Parallaxe PXL20 Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with a Carved Top|
|$850||Read Full Review Below|
|19. Ibanez ART120QA Electric Guitar||Body: Single Cutaway Poplar Body with Quilted Maple Top|
|$350||Read Full Review Below|
|20. Ibanez ART120||Body: Single Cutaway Pine Body|
|$300||Read Full Review Below|
Here are the Best Les Paul Style Guitars and Copies
1. ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar (Best Value)
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Carved Flamed Maple Top|
|Pickups||ESP LH-150 Bridge and Neck Humbuckers|
My Review: Although Epiphones are traditionally what you would go for if you are looking for a good value Les Paul, there is arguably a better choice in the shape of the ESP LTD EC-256FM electric guitar. This one offers incredible value for money, and you get pretty much everything you would expect from a Les Paul. When was the last time you saw a carved flamed maple top on a Les Paul which cost less than $450? Well, you get that here, which looks especially eye-catching if you can find one in a Dark Brown Sunburst finish. You also get an all-mahogany body and a set-in mahogany neck. The fingerboard is rosewood, decorated with wavy trapezoid inlays. The body itself also looks more aggressive, thanks to the sharper and thinner cutaway.
The EC-256FM also comes with two ESP LH-150 humbucker pickups, which provide that signature Les Paul sound. This guitar also sticks with the standard 24.75” scale length, as well. You also get the Tune-O-Matic bridge. However, the one thing that the ESP EC-256FM does differently is the single master push/pull tone, which allows for coil tapping. Of course, you still get the individual tone knobs for each pickup. This is what a great Les Paul copy should be. We also love the subtle aggressive updates to the original look, and the price tag, which will definitely make you think of buying one.
Who Will Use This Most: Anyone who is looking for that Les Paul magic at a fraction of the cost. You get everything you would ever want, with no drawbacks.
Bottom Line: The ESP LTD EC-256FM electric guitar is a fantastic Les Paul copy and one which won’t burn a hole in your budget. If you are also a fan of the modern, yet subtle updates to the original, this one is a no-brainer.
2. PRS McCarty SingleCut 594 (Best Overall)
|Body||Single/Double Cutaway Mahogany Body with a Carved Figured Maple 10 Top|
|Pickups||PRS Dual 58/15 LT Humbucker Pickups|
My Review: No list of Les Paul style electric guitars would be complete without a high-end PRS. And this one is a monster in terms of just about everything, especially the price. Many would argue that Les Paul-inspired PRS guitars are better than actual Gibsons, and the PRS McCarty 594 is proof of that. This is the kind of Les Paul should be making, but isn’t for some reason. Luckily, PRS is here to help, even if it does come at an astronomical price. On other hand, it’s what you would pay for a top-of-the-line Gibson Les Paul, so let’s see how this one stacks up. For the money, you get the absolute best that PRS has to offer, which is a lot. Superb craftsmanship, rigorous quality control, and only the best material and tonewoods are used to manufacture the McCarty guitar.
The attention to details is astounding, and they go so far as to implement the 24.594” scale length, which Paul Reed Claims is the actual scale of the original vintage Gibson Les Paul guitars. The mahogany body. has a stunning maple top, which not only looks great, but coupled with the excellent PRS 58/15 LT humbuckers, it really makes this guitar sound superb in just about any genre or setting. It’s absolutely sublime. And it’s available as a single or double cutaway model. The McCarty 594 is the kind of guitar you dream of all of your life, and if you are lucky enough to get one, you will never part ways with it.
Who Will Use This Most: Professional guitar players and recording artists, and anyone with deep enough pockets who is willing to pay the price for absolutely guitar perfection.
Bottom Line: The PRS McCarty 594 is just about the best incarnation of a Les Paul, when money is no object. There is nothing better out there.
3. D’Angelico Deluxe Atlantic (Editor’s Choice)
|Body||Single Cutaway Bound Basswood Body|
|Pickups||Seymour Duncan DA-59 Humbucker Pickups|
My Review: If you are looking for a classy and unique take on the Les Paul, then you might want to check out the D’Angelico Deluxe Atlantic electric guitar. At first glance, the Atlantic doesn’t look exactly like a Les Paul, especially because of its exaggerated curves. It’s a thing of beauty, especially because of the exquisite binding and pickguard. The body is a single cut and made out of bound basswood, although a swamp ash body is also available, depending on the finish you choose. The guitar has a classic 24.75” scale length, as well as 22 medium frets, as you would expect from a Les Paul. Another nice touch is the split-block mother of pearl and abalone inlays on the fretboard.
The Atlantic is equipped with dual Seymour Duncan DA-59 humbucker pickups which give this guitar a really versatile sound, which means you can use it to play anything from smooth jazz to hard rock riffs. It is nothing short of stellar in almost any situation. The gold-plated hardware gives this guitar an additional level of class. And because this is a D’Angelico guitar, you can expect a high-quality instrument that is exceptionally well made. This particular model is just that, and it looks spectacular to boot.
Who Will Use This Most: Players which are looking for a Les Paul that is a little bit different than the rest, and are willing to spend more money in order to get it.
Bottom Line: The D’Angelico Deluxe Atlantic is a wonderful, classy-looking guitar, but its beauty is more than skin-deep. It sounds great too for just about any genre you can think of, except metal maybe. In my opinion, this is one of the best Les Paul style guitars out there.
4. PRS S2 McCarty 594 Singlecut
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Maple Top|
|Pickups||PRS Dual 58/15 “S” Humbucker Pickups|
|Bridge||PRS Two-Piece Bridge|
My Review: An incredible USA made guitar, PRS is known for the highest level of quality and craftsmanship. This PRS S2 model is priced much lower than the McCarty 594 model, but still significantly more expensive than the SE Tremonti signature model or the SE 245. This is because the S2 is made in PRS’ Maryland factory, so it features all of the craftsmanship you would expect from their flagship models, apart from a few details, which we will get to later in the review. The body is made out of mahogany with a sample top, as well as a mahogany neck. The scale length is the same as on the McCarty 594, which is a nod to vintage Les Pauls.
One of the reasons why S2 is more affordable is the three-piece neck, whereas the McCarty 594 Core model has a one-piece neck. Another reason why the S2 is sold for a “lower” price is the pickups, The S2 uses PRS Dual 58/15 “S”, which is just about the only component on the guitar that isn’t made in the US. Instead, they are manufactured in the PRs’ Indonesian factory, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by playing or listening to them. The S2 is a fantastic guitar that is inspired by vintage Les Pauls, and if you are looking for a PRS McCarty that feels like a boutique guitar, this is it.
Who Will Use This Most: Players looking for a boutique-like guitar that doesn’t cost upward of four thousand dollars, like the McCarty 594.
Bottom Line: The PRS S2 McCarty 594 Singlecut is just an absolutely stunning electric guitar. For a guitar of this quality, it’s almost a bargain. The McCarty 594 Custom would also be deserving of the “Best Overall” award, but the S2 is quite possibly more than 90% of the guitar for less than 50% of the cost. Then factor that against the price of an actually Gibson Les Paul Standard, PRS S2 line is easily one of the greatest Les Paul style guitars produced.
5. Epiphone Les Paul Special (Budget Pick)
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body|
|Pickups||700T/650R Open-Coil Humbuckers|
|Bridge||LockTone Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stopbar Tailpiece|
My Review: If you are thinking you can’t buy much of an electric guitar for a little over $200, let alone a good Les Paul style axe, think again. Epiphone is the go-to brand for affordable Les Pauls, and they have really pushed the boundaries here. The Epiphone Les Paul Special II is arguably the best cheap electric guitar of them all. Looking at it, you see all of the elements of a classic Les Paul. The body and neck are all-mahogany. The neck features a rosewood fingerboard with simple dot inlays, and it has a fairly slim profile, which makes it really easy to play, especially if you are a beginner.
In terms of sound, you get the dual humbuckers to provide plenty of that thick tone and bite. The Les Paul Special II also comes with a LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge. One of the things that Epiphone has done to keep the costs down is to use a bolt-on instead of a set-in neck, which is something that is understandable given the price tag. Still, the guitar plays and sounds great, and it can easily rival the most expensive Les Paul copies. This is a good guitar, period, and once you see how much it costs, you would be hard-pressed to think of any other affordable electric guitar that is better than this one.
Who Will Use This Most: Les Paul fans with a tighter budget, beginner guitar players looking to buy their first electric guitar, as well as guitarists looking for a backup guitar for live performances.
Bottom Line: The Epiphone Les Paul Special II is an absolute bargain of a guitar that will give you a lot more than you paid for it. Highly recommended.
6. Schecter Guitar Research Solo-II Custom
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Maple top|
|Pickups||Schecter Pasadena Neck and Schecter Pasadena Plus Bridge Humbucker Pickups|
|Bridge||TonePros Tune-O-Matic Bridge|
My Review: On the opposite end up of the price spectrum is the Schecter Solo Custom II electric guitar, which falls among the more expensive Les Paul copies you will come across. Schecter is a respected brand, but one which you would usually associate with metal and shredder guitar based on a Telecaster. However, they do also happen to make incredible Les Paul style guitars as well, while adding their own flavor to them. This has most of the elements of a classic Les Paul, but with a few modern twists, such as the C neck profile, which allows for easier shredding, as well as the push/pull tone pot which enables you to switch between single coil screaming and humbucker crunch.
The body is made out of mahogany with a figured maple top, which gives it that warm tone and plenty of sustain. The neck is also mahogany with an ebony fingerboard sporting pearl block inlays. Another thing that sets this guitar apart is the Schecter Pasadena pickups, which provide a lot of bite and make this Les Paul style guitar very suitable for heavier genres. We love how well-made this guitar is, as well as the number of unique and eye-catching finishes it is available, such as the Satin Aged Black with gold hardware. Sure, it’s pricey, but you can easily see where all the money went, thanks to superb craftsmanship and build quality.
Who Will Use This Most: Players with deeper pockets looking for a more modern take on a Les Paul, as well as metal players.
Bottom Line: Schecter Solo Custom II electric guitar is one of the best Les Paul copies available which sports a price tag that rivals the original.
7. Gretsch Guitars G5220 Electromatic Jet
|Body||Single Cutaway Chambered Mahogany Body with Maple Top|
|Bridge||Adjusto-Matic Bridge with a “V’ tailpiece|
My Review: Gretsch is famous for semi-hollow body electric guitars which look and sound great, and are affordable at the same time. One of the models which you should pay attention to if you like Les Paul is the G5220 Electromatic Jet electric guitar. Now, Gretsch guitars aren’t usually considered Les Paul copies, and this one isn’t either, but it does feature a lot of elements you might look for in a Les Paul, starting with the familiar body shape. The G2250 does have a few tricks up its sleeve. For starters, its body is chambered, which means it’s lighter and easier to use than a Les Paul, which will be appreciated by beginners and more petite players.
The chambered also means that you will get some really bright and beautiful clean tones. While not exactly an axe you would use for metal or shredding, the G5220 can still make a lot of noise and growl thanks to Broad’Tron humbucker pickups. Because the body and the neck are mahogany, you get that Les Paul-like warmth and sustain, which really recommends this guitar to those looking for that familiar Les Paul sound. The fretboard is made out of black walnut, which is an unusual but inspired choice of wood. The guitar also comes with a V Stoptail bridge which keeps the guitar in tune for a long time.
Who Will Use This Most: Those who prefer a lighter and more vintage tone, as well as those who find the original Les Paul heavy and difficult to use during longer gigs.
Bottom Line: The Gretsch G5220 is a great-looking guitar that produces some outstanding clean tone, but which can also rock just like your regular Les Paul.
8. PRS SE Mark Tremonti Custom
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Beveled Maple Top|
|Pickups||PRS SE 245 Bass Neck Pickup and PRS SE 245 Treble Bridge Pickup|
|Bridge||PRS Tremolo Bridge|
My Review: If you are looking for a great Les Paul style guitar, then look no further than the PRS SE Mark Tremonti Custom. Tremonti is often seen playing one of these bad boys with Alter Bridge, as well as with his solo band Tremonti, which should say enough about the quality of this guitar. Although PRS originally envisioned the SE series as a more affordable lineup of guitars, they have easily surpassed the mark with its build quality, selection of materials, as well as looks. This signature Mark Tremonti Custom guitar is only available in a transparent gray/black finish, which looks absolutely stunning. You also get the iconic single-cut mahogany body with a figured maple top, as well as a maple neck with bird inlays.
This guitar easily beats any Les Paul style guitar out there for the price. You also get the maple neck, which makes for a warmer sound, and 22 medium-sized frets. The 25” scale is longer than that of a standard Les Paul. Contributing even more to the classic feel and sound are the PRS SE 245 neck and bridge humbucker pickups, each with its own combo of volume and tone knobs. But, apart from the usual PRS charm that elevates this guitar to a whole new level, you also get additional functionality in the shape of a PRS tremolo bridge, which means you can easily shred and take it easy on your guitar’s neck since you won’t have to do dive bombs. Its price tag might be higher than that of the other copies, but it’s an amazing guitar that is worth every penny.
Who Will Use This Most: Anyone who loves a great Les Paul guitar, fans of Tremonti, Alter Bridge, as well as any recording professional and touring musician.
Bottom Line: The PRS SE Mark Tremonti Custom electric guitar is an amazing Les Paul style instrument and one which is an absolute must-have. If you’re looking for the best Les Paul copy this is a great option.
9. PRS SE 245
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Maple Top|
|Pickups||SE 245 Treble and SE 245 Bass Humbucker Pickups|
My Review: Let’s just get it out of the way: the PRS SE 245 is one of the best Les Paul style guitars you can currently buy, and in many respects, it may even be superior to the original. Now, we have already reviewed the PRS SE Mark Tremonti SE Custom signature model, which is similarly priced, so why choose the PRS SE 245? Well, apart from the fact they cost the same and they are both high-quality instruments, they feature a number of key differences. First of all, the SE Tremonti is available in just one finish, whereas the SE 245 is available in several different ones which closely echo the finishes found on classic Les Paul. Second, this guitar also features a different scale length and different pickups, which in this are SE 245 treble and bass pickups, which sound a lot more classic.
Of course, the body is mahogany with a maple top, and a mahogany neck, so that is another thing that makes this guitar really similar to the original Les Paul. What we really love about this one is the neck profile, which is really wide, making it really easy to play, regardless of the genre. Choosing between the Tremonti signature model and the SE 245 is ultimately a matter of style. The former features a more modern and aggressive look and sound, whereas the latter goes back to the basics and gives you the Les Paul “greatest hits”. It’s a wonderful dilemma to be in since both are such wonderful guitars.
Who Will Use This Most: Those looking for the best that the Les Paul has to offer and then some, as well as those who don’t mind a price tag that is a bit higher.
Bottom Line: The PRS SE 245 is one of the best single cut guitars around, there is no doubt about that, and you won’t regret buying one.
10. ESP LTD EC-1000
|Body||Single Cutaway Solid Mahogany Body|
|Pickups||Genuine EMG 81 Bridge and Genuine EMG 60 Neck Humbucker Pickups|
|Bridge||TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge|
My Review: We have already proclaimed the ESP LTD EC-256FM as our Best Value Pick, so you might be expecting the LTD EC-1000 to be more of the same? Not exactly, because this one costs a grand, which puts it among the premium Les Paul style guitars. Why would anyone pay that much for a copy when they can get a Gibson Les Paul Studio for that money? Well, this is a copy that is made to go up against Gibson Les Pauls that are more than twice its price. Basically, it’s the sort of guitar Gibson won’t make for that kind of money. The EC-1000 is every metal and hard guitarist’s dream, with an all-mahogany body and beck, as well as EMG 81/60 humbucker pickups which give this guitar a really mean, heavy tone.
This guitar is a bruiser, not a ballerina, but it still looks incredible, especially in a matte black finish with gold hardware, in which case it also comes with an ebony fretboard. There is also gold binding all around the body, which really gives this guitar a premium look to go along with that fat, beefy sound that you would expect from a Les Paul. Sure, this is never going to be a Gibson and it’s not the cheapest copy around, but it’s well worth its price since it sounds and feels like a premium Les Paul.
Who Will Use This Most: Guitarists which are looking for that true Les Paul feel and sound, regardless of the logo, as well as heavy rock and metal players.
Bottom Line: The ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 is an incredible guitar that punches way above its price bracket. We simply love it.
11. Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
|Body||Single Cutaway Solid Mahogany Body with Carved Mahogany Top|
|Pickups||Zebra Coil Ceramic Pickups|
My Review: After one premium Les Paul copy, let’s take a look at one that is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT is a no-frills type of guitar where all of the non-essential elements have been stripped away in order to keep the price down. And it has worked since this one costs just $250, and as we have been able to see so far, that kind of money can get you a good Epiphone Les Paul copy. Does this fall into the same category? Yes it does. The Epiphone Studio LT does away with the flamed maple top, the binding, as well as the elaborate pearl or abalone inlays for the fretboard.
Instead, you get simply dot inlays, subtle satin finish, bolt-on neck, and a carved mahogany top. However, you still get the humbucker pickups, in the shape of Zebra Coil ceramic pickups. This is a guitar that is clearly aimed at beginners who are looking to enter the world of Les Pauls, and they will have an easy time doing so, not just because of the price, but also because of the stuff like the SlimTape D profile neck and medium jumbo frets. It’s a basic guitar that is well-made and it does its job well.
Who Will Use This Most: Beginner players and those which aren’t looking to spend a lot, but would still like to see what a Les Paul feels like.
Bottom Line: So far, it’s three for three for Epiphone, and it’s affordable Les Paul copies. The Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT definitely earns our recommendation.
12. Epiphone Les Paul Standard ’60s Electric Guitar
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with AA Flame Maple Top|
|Pickups||Epiphone Probucker 2 Neck and Epiphone Probucker 3 Bridge Pickups|
|Bridge||LockTone ABR Fixed Bridge|
My Review: Yes, this is the fourth Epiphone on our list, but were you expecting any less from a company that specializes in bringing Les Paul guitars to the masses? Unlike the two budget models, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard ‘60s belongs in the same category as the PlusTop Pro model we have already reviewed on this list. They are similarly priced, and feature roughly the same amount of attention to detail. But, this one is unique because its aim is to provide you with an experience you would get playing a 1960s Gibson Les Paul before they decided to move their production to California. You get the retro finishes that really show off the AA maple top, which decorates the solid mahogany body, as well as vintage cream binding.
The neck is also solid mahogany with Indian laurel fretboard and features a slimmer neck profile, which recalls the Gibson Les Paul models from the ‘60. But, what really gives this guitar that 1960s feel and character are the Alnico Probucker pickups, which sound pretty damn similar to the vintage PAF humbuckers which were used on the original guitars. Once you couple that with a mahogany body, which gives it that smooth tone, and a maple top, which provides the snap, you get a guitar that is perfect for hard rock or just straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. The Epiphone Les Paul Standard ‘60s guitar is a great vintage-style Les Paul copy, there is no question about it.
Who Will Use This Most: Players looking for a vintage vibe from their Les Paul at a fairly reasonable price.
Bottom Line: The Epiphone Les Paul Standard ‘60s is a great option if you are looking for a Les Paul that has plenty of ‘60s character and flavor, and is well-made at the same time.
13. Jackson PRO Monarkh SC
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with Arched Maple Top|
|Pickups||Seymour Duncan Blackout AHB-1N and Blackout AHB-1B Pickups|
My Review: Probably the first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions Jackson are the souped-up Superstrats this company is known for. However, they also make Les Paul style guitars, and pretty good ones at that. Today, we are looking at the Jackson PRO Monarkh SC electric guitar, which falls among the more expensive Les Paul copies on your list. But, as you would also expect from Jackson, their take on the Les Paul is, well, a souped-up beast that feels most at home when shredding and playing heavy riffs. The body is made out of mahogany and features an arched maple top, which provides a good tonal balance between warmth and bite. The eye-catching finishes only add to the overall aggressiveness of this guitar.
Responsible for the sound are the Seymour Duncan Blackout AHB-1N and Blackout AHB-1B humbucker pickups which sound absolutely ferocious, and when you couple them with a high gain amp, you will have all the distortion you will ever need in your life, especially if you are a metal player. This is a performance guitar, which is evident through a number of details, such as the compound radius fingerboard, as well as graphite rods that are inside the neck of the guitar, which provide a new level of stiffness and resistance to temperature and humidity differences, as well as mechanical abuse. This is a Les Paul copy built for the 21st century, and we love it.
Who Will Use This Most: Anyone who likes a crunchy, aggressive sound coming from a Les Paul, as well as any metalhead out there.
Bottom Line: The Jackson PRO Monarkh SC electric guitar is an absolute beast, and you like to switch between shredding and playing heavy riffs, you will fall in love with this particular Les Paul copy.
14. ESP LTD EC-10
|Body||Single Cutaway Basswood Body|
|Pickups||ESP Designed LH-100N and ESP Designed LH-100B Humbucker Pickups|
My Review: Les Paul that costs under $200? Yes, it’s possible and even more surprising, it’s an ESP LTD EC-10 electric guitar. However, just because this guitar is cheap, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a subpar product. Sure, you don’t get all the bells and whistles as you would on more expensive models, but you do get a basswood body with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard. In order to keep the cost down, this guitar features a bolt-on neck, which is quite common on cheaper Les Paul copies. The scale length is standard for a Les Paul, so anyone who likes to bend their notes will feel right at home with this guitar. The EC-10 features a simple black finish.
One of the things that stands out on this guitar is the pickups. Keep in mind that ESP used to make pickups for other guitar brands before venturing into making guitars themselves. This guitar is equipped with ESP LH-100N and ESP LH-100B humbuckers, which provide just the right amount of thickness and crunch which you would expect from a Les Paul. If you play hard rock, straight-up rock ‘n’ roll or even some blues, you will find that this is a great beginner guitar for that. Sure, this guitar is built to a price, but you wouldn’t get that feeling playing. It’s a great basic model worth way more than the asking price.
Who Will Use This Most: All beginners, anyone on a tight budget, or just about anyone looking for a reliable backup Les Paul style guitar.
Bottom Line: The ESP LTD EC-10 is a steal at under $200, and it’s a great beginner guitar, regardless of whether you are looking for Les Paul style guitar or not.
15. Epiphone Les Paul Standard
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany body with Carved Maple Top|
|Pickups||Epiphone ProBucker 2 Neck and ProBucker3 Bridge Pickup|
My Review: We have already featured one Epiphone Les Paul as our budget pick. This one is a bit different because it’s about as close as you can get to a real Les Paul without breaking the bank. Being owned by Gibson, Epiphone doesn’t actually make Les Paul copies, since their guitars are every bit as real as the original Gibson Les Pauls. The Epiphone Les Paul Standard looks exactly like any high-end Gibson Les Paul. The body is made out of solid mahogany with a carved maple top available in a variety of finishes. The neck is also mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard which has traditional trapezoid inlays. So far, so good.
In terms of sound, you get the Epiphone Probuckers, which are responsible for that signature thick and warm tone and are the best thing about this guitar. On the opposite end of the guitar is the LockTone and the Tune-O-Matic bridge, which keeps the guitar in tune at all times and allows for easy string changes. The attention to detail and build quality is impressive, and stuff like binding around the fretboard and the neck not only looks great but also makes the playing more comfortable. This guitar sounds like a more expensive instrument, and given the classic Gibson headstock, you might not even be able to tell the difference between this and its big brother.
Who Will Use This Most: Players looking for a guitar that is close as possible to the original, but only costs a fraction of the cost, as well as guitarists not willing to play their original Les Paul in a live setting.
Bottom Line: The Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro is just about everything you want in a Les Paul. Only it doesn’t cost a fortune and doesn’t have the Gibson logo.
16. Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition
|Body||Single Cutaway Poplar Body|
|Pickups||Epiphone 650R Neck and 700T Bridge Humbucker Pickups|
My Review: We’ve already established that you can get a good budget Les Paul for a little under $200 in case you want to get an ESP EC-10 guitar. Well, Epiphone isn’t willing to let ESP take over that segment of the market, so they have come with their own cheap version of a Les Paul that is similarly priced, and even cheaper than some of their other budget models. The Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition electric guitar stands out right away with its worn finish, which doesn’t feature any fancy bells and whistles, such as the figured maple top or elaborate binding and inlays. Of course, this not only keeps the costs down, but also tells that this is made to be played a lot.
Unlike the standard Les Paul, which has a mahogany body, this one has one which is made out of poplar, which is a lighter type of tonewood. This means you will still get most of that fat, warm tone, but your shoulders won’t hurt as much if you are playing for hours at a time. And the Epiphone 650 R and 700T humbuckers pickups sound really good on this one, and really work together with the body to make the tone as fat as possible. Epiphone Les Paul Special VE may be cheap to buy, but it doesn’t sound or feel cheap at all. It may not be flashy, but it does the job really well.
Who Will Use This Most: Beginners will love this one because of the price, and those looking for a sturdy backup guitar will find much to like here.
Bottom Line: The Epiphone Les Paul Special VE is a great affordable guitar that is perfect for beginner players, as well as players on a budget.
17. Guild Newark St. Bluesbird
|Body||Single Cutaway Chambered Mahogany Body with Carved Maple Top|
|Pickups||Seymour Duncan SH-1N ’59 Neck and JB SH-4B Bridge Humbucker Pickups|
My Review: Guild is famous for making high-end acoustic guitars, so you may find it surprising that it’s on our list of guitar companies that make Les Paul copies. The guitar in question is the Guild Bluesbird Newark St. Collection, which has a really long tradition going all the way to the 1970s. Although it has gone through numerous versions, the model we are looking at today has a chambered mahogany body with a carved maple top, which is something that is a characteristic of modern Bluesbird guitars. The chambered body has two advantages. The first one is that it’s lighter than a solid mahogany body found on most Les Paul. The second one is that the chambers provide additional resonance, along with the maple that provides the snappy tone.
However, when you really want to rock, this guitar can do it just like any other Les Paul, thanks to Seymour Duncan SH-1N ’59 and JB SH-4B humbuckers. The Bluesbird also sticks with the classic 24.75” scale length, which means you will have no problem playing bendy notes either, and the fast C shaped neck makes for a very comfortable playing experience. The only downside is the price, but given that all Guild guitars are high-quality instruments, it is somewhat expected.
Who Will Use This Most: Players who love the feel of a vintage instrument, and those which are willing to pay extra for quality.
Bottom Line: The Guild Bluesbird Newark St. Collection guitar falls into the category of premium Les Paul copies, and by all accounts, it definitely belongs there.
18. Washburn Parallaxe PXL20
|Body||Single Cutaway Mahogany Body with a Carved Top|
|Pickups||Seymour Duncan USA SH2 and USA SH4 Humbucker Pickups|
My Review: Washburn guitars are usually associated with shredding and heavy metal, and the Washburn Parallaxe PXL20 is not much different. However, since this is a Les Paul copy, you can think of it as Gibson Les Paul if it went full-on metal. The aggressive looks also give this guitar away, with the glossy finish and a curvier body which has a wider lower bout. The body is made out of mahogany with a carved mahogany top and a maple neck. The neck also sports an ebony fretboard. The back of the body is also carved, so you get a Les Paul style that is more comfortable to play, which is a huge plus.
What really gives this guitar its metal character are its pickups, which in this case are Seymour Duncan USA SH2/SH4 humbuckers, which provide a tone of sustain and crunch. In terms of price, the PXL20 belongs to upper-tier Les Paul copies, but every single element on it has been thoughtfully developed and implemented, and it really shows. It’s a premium guitar with a premium price, and that’s perfectly fine, as long as you can afford it.
Who Will Use This Most: Metalheads which love the feel and sound of a Les Paul, but don’t find the original heavy enough.
Bottom Line: The Washburn Parallaxe PXL20 is like the Les Paul’s metal cousin, and if you have heavy music running through your veins, you will be thrilled with this guitar.
19. Ibanez ART120QA
|Body||Single Cutaway Poplar Body with Quilted Maple Top|
|Pickups||Dual Classic Elite Humbucker Pickups with Three-Way Switch|
|Bridge||Full Tune III bridge|
My Review: If you are a fan of the heavy, distorted sound that a Les Paul can make, then you’re going to love the Ibanez ART120QA electric guitar. In a way, it is the polar opposite of the Gretsch G5220 from previous reviews, since the G5220 does the clean sounds so well. When you first look at the ART120QA, you will think that it costs a lot more than it does, especially because of the quilted maple top which it just looks stunning. Ibanez is known for making quality instruments on a budget, but even by their standards, you get a lot of the guitar for your money here.
The body is made out of poplar with a maple top and neck, which give it that sharp, snappy tone. The neck is set-in, as is pretty much the standard with all Les Paul style guitars, and the fretboard is bound purpleheart. Responsible for the heavy, crunchy tone of this guitar are the Dual Classic Elite humbucker pickups, which are pretty much ideal if you are into playing heavy riffs and crushing chords. If you are looking for a delicate, subtle tone, then you are better off finding it somewhere else. We absolutely love it, and you will too.
Who Will Use This Most: Fans of heavy, riff-based rock and metal, as well as those looking for a great-looking Les Paul copy on a budget
Bottom Line: All things considered, the Ibanez ART120QA is a well-made, affordable Les Paul copy that is ideal for playing heavier music. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds from Ibanez and Gibson. What more could you want?
20. Ibanez ART120
|Body||Single Cutaway Pine Body|
|Fretboard||Bound New Zealand Pine|
|Bridge||Full Tune III bridge and tailpiece|
My Review: Ibanez’s twist of the rock classic that is the Gibson Les Paul offers a very affordable yet versatile option. It’s relatively lightweight and is extremely comfortable to play. Definitely captures the spirit of the Les Paul without being an outright knockoff. The Full Tune III bridge and tailpiece are similar to a Gibson setup and the ART120 resonates and sustains well and stays in tune.
Who Will Use This Most: This is a lightweight, comfortable to play, and versatile guitar which would lend itself nicely to beginner and intermediate players looking for an affordable, yet quality, single cut guitar.
Bottom Line: A bit of modern twist to a Rock n’ Roll classic guitar design. Well designed and crafted by an industry leader in guitar manufacturing, the Ibanez ART120 is an excellent value single cut guitar.
Choosing the Best Les Paul Copy (Buying Guide)
Since we are speaking about Les Paul style guitar, we have to say that just about every guitar manufacturer out there, apart from Fender Stratocaster obviously, has or has had a Les Paul copy in their lineup of guitars, this means we won’t be listing all of them, but we will shine spotlight on those whose work and quality warrants a mention. Also, we will also provide information you will need to know when choosing a Les Paul copy.
What Makes a Good Les Paul Copy?
The best Les Paul style guitar is always going to be the Gibson Les Paul, so let’s just get that out of the way. However, in the world of guitar, the word “copy” or “replica” does not necessarily have to spell poor playability and subpar build quality. In fact, you could make a case that some of the guitars we have reviewed on our list are actually better than the original. Let’s take Slash as an example and his iconic sound. Slash has always been known as a Gibson Les Paul player, but what you may not know is that he recorded the legendary Guns N’ Rose LP “Appetite for Destruction” on a guitar that wasn’t a Gibson Les Paul.
During those early GN’R days, Slash, just like the rest of the band, was struggling to make ends meet, and couldn’t afford a Gibson Les Paul, so he was given a Les Paul replica built by luthier Kris Derrig. Slash has used that guitar on every single piece of music he has recorded ever since. In fact, the guitar was so good that Gibson decided to make a replica of a replica, and the result is Gibson’s AFD Les Paul guitar which matches the specs of the “original”. Although Gibson has been more than ready to sue other manufacturers for copying their design, it turns out that protecting the design of a guitar body with a patent is a very difficult thing to do, which is why there are so many copies available nowadays.
So, given the right materials and a capable luthier or manufacturer, you can end up with a Les Paul style axe that matches the original pretty closely. But, in order to choose a good copy, let’s see what makes the original so coveted:
Les Paul Guitar Body
Gibson Les Paul, along with Fender Stratocaster, has a body that is instantly recognizable. The iconic design featuring a single cutaway, smaller upper bout and a larger lower one is just about the epitome of the electric guitar. Sure, nowadays you can get a Les Paul with double cutaways, but when we think of a Les Paul, we think of its default, single cut incarnation. Usually, the body itself is made out of mahogany. Les Pauls often have a top made out of maple, which can make the guitar look absolutely gorgeous, provided that the finish is semi-transparent and that it showcases the beauty of the wood.
Of course, Les Paul is also available in solid color finishes, as well. Other cosmetic and functional details, such as the binding around the body or a pickguard also vary from one Les Paul model to the other.
Neck and Headstock
Although Gibson Les Pauls have been issued with slightly different headstocks over the years, they all have one thing in common, and that is three tuning machines on the left side of the headstock and three on the right. This is the opposite of Fender Stratocaster, which has six tuning machines on one side of the headstock. As for the material, Les Pauls are usually made out of mahogany or maple, with the latter being a preferable choice in terms of sound and durability. When it comes to the fretboard, Les Pauls usually feature a rosewood or ebony fretboard, but there are plenty of cheaper models that feature more sustainable tonewoods.
Les Paul guitars have a scale length of 24.75”. This gives the guitar that signature warm tone, just like the 25.5” scale length gives the Strat its characteristic twang. However, there are Les Paul-style guitars, such as most PRS guitars, which don’t necessarily stick with this scale length. Usually, Les Pauls have 22 jumbo frets, but models with 24 medium-jumbo frets are not that uncommon. Finally, we come to fretboard inlays, which are just dots on some models, and more complex block or trapezoid shapes on the more expensive guitars.
The most iconic and common pickup configuration on a Les Paul guitar consists of two humbucker pickups. To control these pickups, you get a three-way selector switch, which enables you to play any combination of the neck/bridge pickup. Also, for each pickup, you get a separate tone and volume knob. Nearly all Les Pauls come with a fixed, Tune-O-Matic style bridge, which enables the player to adjust the individual string saddles, not just when it comes to pitch, but string action as well.
Guitar Brands that Make Les Paul Style Guitars
While there are plenty of nearly anonymous guitar manufacturers that make cheap and poorly built Les Paul copies, here we will only focus on reputable companies which produce their own take on the classic Les Paul electric guitar:
Paul Reed Smith guitars are some of the finest instruments you can currently buy for your money, and in many respects, their guitars surpass the original Les Paul. While it would be unfair to treat them as a Les Paul copy, since they have a different scale length and a number of other details which make them unique, we have included them because they offer pretty much everything you would look for in a Les Paul, especially if you were to look at their USA-made lineup of guitars. Of course, those come with an appropriate price tag. For those looking for a more affordable option, PRS has its SE lineup, which is made in Indonesia.
These guitars offer probably the best money/value ratio out there, especially when it comes to Les Paul style guitars. In fact, they pretty much beat any Les Paul copy when it comes to build quality, playability, and looks, and they get dangerously close to some of the cheaper USA-made Gibson Les Paul, such as the Les Paul Studio. In fact, PRS was sued by Gibson over its single cut design. Surprisingly, Gibson lost, and PRS continued to make their single cut guitar, since copyrighting a guitar shape is much harder than you would imagine. You should also pay attention to the PRS McCarty models, which are named after Ted McCarty, who was the president of Gibson during its golden era, and has also helped Paul Reed Smith with his guitars.
Tokai is a Japanese guitar manufacturer that has a long tradition of making high-quality replicas of Gibson and Fender instruments. In fact, in the 1970s, there was a period of time when Gibson was having a hard time keeping its customers, and companies such as Ibanez and Tokai emerged with pretty accurate copies of the Les Paul. Ibanez actually got sued, and Tokai was threatened with a lawsuit, which is why their instruments of this era are also known as “lawsuit guitars”. Ibanez replicas are no longer made, but they are highly coveted among players because of their quality, which is rumored to be superior to that of original Gibsons of the era.
Tokai, on the other hand, still makes their copies of the Les Paul, and according to guitar aficionados, they are actually better than original Les Pauls from that time period. Tokai has a pretty diverse lineup, which means they make anything from cheap, affordable copies to high-end Les Paul replicas which are so good that they’ve inspired their own copies. That’s right, there are copies of a copy, so be careful when looking for a Tokai Les Paul. Another thing you need to pay attention to is the location where Tokai guitars are made. Obviously, the best Tokai Les Paul copies, or “Love Rock” guitars, are made in Japan, and their budget versions are made in Korea, which is also where their knockoffs come from. Tokai Les Paul copies are also named based on their quality: the higher the model number, the better the guitar.
Guild is known for making superb acoustic guitars, so their electric instruments don’t get hyped as much. However, they have made and they still make the Bluesbird, which features a lot of the elements you find on a Gibson Les Paul. Although the original Bluesbirds had a spruce top, modern ones have one made out of maple, just like the Les Paul. What’s interesting about the vintage Guild Bluesbird is that, while it did look like a Les Paul, it sounded a lot different, mainly because of the chambered body and the spruce top. Even with humbucking pickups, these guitars didn’t sound like a good fit for heavier music genres, which is something that Les Paul is synonymous with.
Guild has reintroduced them model in recent years, and since then, it has featured USA-made Seymour Duncan pickups, which are certainly familiar to anyone who has ever played a Les Paul. The necks are made out of mahogany, and the fingerboard is rosewood, which is a very common combo on Gibson Les Pauls. The guitars themselves are made in Asia. Modern Bluesbirds are quality instruments, and their price tag is around one thousand dollars, which pits them against some of the original Les Pauls.
ESP is another guitar manufacturer that needs no introduction, because they are one of the biggest brands on the planet. However, there are plenty of other companies owned by ESP, and the brand itself has branches all over the world, including the US, Japan, China, and Indonesia, with the first two producing high-quality instruments with a more hands-on approach when it comes to guitar building and quality control. One of the brands that makes fantastic Les Paul style guitars under the ESP banner is Edwards. Edwards’ Les Paul Custom guitars are inspired by the 1950s era Gibson Les Pauls, and in terms of quality they are right up there with high-end Tokai Les Pauls. The best models usually cost around a grand, and for that kind of money, they are better than the equivalent Gibson Les Paul.
Collings is a company that is geared toward making boutique acoustic guitars, but their City Limits guitar is quite similar to a Gibson Les Paul. There is the maple top, the single cut, as well as the overall shape. And because it’s a Collings, you can rest assured that each guitar will be made to fit the highest possible standards. However, when you take a closer look at their Les Paul style guitar, you will notice that there is another Les Paul-inspired guitar that the Collings resembles more: it’s the PRS. And it’s a dead heat in terms of quality, attention to detail, and price as well, especially if in comparison to the PRS SC 245.
Before moving their operation to Nashville, Tennessee, Gibson used to build its guitars in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Well, there was a number of workers and guitar builders that didn’t want to leave, so they formed their own company named the Heritage, which still continues to make high-end Les Pauls of their own. The instruments are handmade, for the most part, and their quality is excellent, and if you are looking for a vintage Gibson Les Paul that doesn’t sport the Gibson name, but has everything else, this is about as close it gets.
And there you have it, everything you need to know about what makes a Gibson Les Paul such an iconic guitar, as well as which guitar manufacturers and models are worth a look if you don’t want the original for some reason. We hope that our list of Les Paul style guitars and our buying guide will make your choice just a little bit easier. Good luck!
My name is Chris and I’ve had a passion for music and guitars for as long as I can remember. I started this website with some of my friends who are musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasts so we could provide high-quality guitar and music-related content.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. With my engineering experience, I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.